BROOKVILLE — College tuition and mental health were two of the many topics raised by upperclassmen at Brookville Area High School when they met with Senator Bob Casey on Wednesday, October 9.

Joining the senator in the high school library for a “roundtable discussion” were 21 students representing the eleventh and twelfth grade classes as well as Youth and Government.

Senior Luc Doolittle kicked things off with concerns about the rising cost of tuition. Senior Jenna Gould chimed in with questions about financial aid criteria.

Casey said Congress should pass legislation that would allow graduates to renegotiate their student debt – in the same way that homeowners can refinance their mortgages.

Mental illness needs more attention from the public and policymakers, said senior Donavan Hoffman.

Casey agreed but said the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was a step in the right direction. He added that the Affordable Care Act provides care for those with mental illness.

Senior Danielle Maring and junior Taylor Reitz also asked questions about mental health and suggested that mental health should be included in academic standards for public schools.

Casey noted that academic standards are approved at the state and local levels, and with 500 school districts, the Keystone State prides itself on local control.

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Taylor also touched on the need to support small businesses while junior Kyle MacBeth introduced the topic of renewable energy and junior Claire Sorek expressed concerns about school safety.

Junior Chase Evans noted population decline in our part of the country and asked what can be done to keep and attract residents.

The third-term senator talked about the need for rural broadband, investments in infrastructure, and “good old fashioned American research and innovation.”

Rural and urban communities have more in common than is commonly thought, he said. Both benefit from safety nets and government programs.

As an example, 38 percent of Pennsylvania’s children receive health care through Medicaid, Casey said.

He opened and closed with the hope that students would consider careers in public service or find other opportunities to volunteer in their communities.

Joining Casey and the students were Superintendent Erich May, Principal Ruthanne Barbazzeni, Assistant Principal Kyle Gordon, librarian Donna Snyder, Youth and Government advisor Melinda Burton, school board member John Pozza and YMCA Director Tina Householder.

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